From staff and wire reports
Strong winds and heavy snows whipping across northern Ohio on Wednesday disrupting both air and ground travel plans.
At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, a check at 6:30 p.m. showed that two-thirds of the 50 flights scheduled to depart between 5:17 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. were canceled. Five flights were listed as delayed.
Airport spokesman Todd Payne cautioned travelers to check with their airlines for updates.
Akron-Canton Airport officials posted a similar advisory on the airport’s Facebook page and Twitter account because “many flights were cancelled staring this afternoon.”
By 6:30 p.m., all but one departing flights were listed as canceled.
The state’s largest military base, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, shut down because of the storm.
The Ohio Department of Transportation said it pretreated major highways in anticipation of ice and heavy snow. Traffic was slow but moving in most of the storm-hit areas.
The Ohio Turnpike imposed restrictions against high-profile vehicles and triple-trailer vehicles Wednesday night, and authorities reported multiple accidents on the Turnpike.
In Darke County in western Ohio, the sheriff’s office issued a Level 3 snow emergency, which bars all but emergency traffic. Authorities said blowing and drifting snow cut visibility to near zero, and they were getting calls from motorists stranded in rural areas. A Level 3 also was issued in Mercy County in western Ohio.
In nearby Preble County, Interstate 70 heading west was closed temporarily early Wednesday afternoon while a traffic accident was cleared, and Columbus police officers closed westbound I-70 near the capital later in the day to give salt crews time to clear ice.
However, Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Anne Ralston said no fatalities from accidents had been reported by mid-afternoon. The patrol urged drivers to increase their following distances and give themselves extra time to reach their destinations.
The AAA automobile club reported its busiest Wednesday of the year in the Greater Cincinnati region, responding to nearly 500 member calls for tows, jump starts and other help by evening.
Agencies in several counties, including Franklin and Cuyahoga, closed because of the weather. Clark County authorities in Springfield said road conditions were so hazardous that county transportation services would be provided only for essential medical needs, such as people getting dialysis. The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition said a winter shelter would open Wednesday evening at a downtown church to make sure people had a warm place to sleep.
Not everyone was impressed.
Marian Lebron, of Cleveland, went out early Wednesday to buy oil for her snow blower and replace a couple of lights that had gone out on her car, then returned home and prepared to hunker down. Two to three inches of snow had fallen by mid-afternoon, with forecasters calling for worse conditions later, but the National Weather Service later in the evening canceled a blizzard warning for Cuyahoga and other Northeast Ohio counties.
Lebron, 53, a telecommunications company project manager, said she can work at home if needed. She said she’s not a snow person but was ready to do whatever was necessary to make it through the storm, including braving the elements with her snow pants, snow blower and shovel.
“I’m kind of like, ‘Bring it on,’” she said.
Thadd Fiala, 38, walking his dog in downtown Cincinnati, said residents in southern Ohio don’t know what a real storm is like.
“If this is the worst of it, that’s OK,” he said. “I grew up in Michigan. The worst Cincinnati could do would be a normal day there.”